TOMB RAIDER. Having never been a gamer of any real focus or wherewithal — at all, really — Tomb Raider is a property that offers precious little by way of interest. Mostly because I didn't play the video game but also because Angelina Jolie has yet to enter my celebrity fetishization pantheon, I didn't particularly care about the movie franchise the first time around (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001 and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, 2003). So there's very little on the line with the reboot, at least in terms of loyalty to source material, star or continuity. That said, I enjoy a rousing adventure as much as anybody, and Alicia Vikander has consistently given compelling, seemingly earnest performances on her way to super-stardom, so why not? Plus, the trailer offered the possibility of innovatively shot action sequences and a Grrl Power storyline, of which we could always use more. Sad news: It's a let-down on all fronts.
Lara Croft (Vikander), in the midst of an unacknowledged identity crisis, works part time delivering lunches on a bicycle in London. She sometimes trains — rather unsuccessfully — at a rough and tumble fighting gym, the nominal fees of which she can hardly afford, in spite of the fact that she is heir to a vast and varied fortune. Because she refuses to acknowledge the presumed death of her long-missing father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), Lara's mind-boggling inheritance remains held in trust. When a bike-messenger bet lands her in some minor legal trouble, though, she begins to reconsider. When she is (literally) on the verge of signing the necessary documents, however, a puzzle materializes, containing a clue from Dad. This sets Lara on a path of discovery: She learns that her father had concealed a lifetime of globe-spanning adventure from her and that his frequent absences were mostly due to his hunting down powerful artifacts and staving off the influence of shadowy, nefarious international groups. (How he came by this pastime is apparently not important).
Lacking any of the presumably requisite skills or knowledge to do so, Lara sets about the unfinished business of Dad's search for the tomb of an ancient Japanese death-goddess. She conscripts a reluctant, unconvincingly drunk boat captain (Daniel Wu), whose father (natch) went missing with old man Croft. Soon enough, they've washed ashore on a previously uninhabited island, where the nefarious, probably insane representative of one of the above-mentioned dastardly multi-nationals, improbably named Matias Vogel (the usually captivating Walton Goggins), oversees a slave labor force frantically dynamiting the island in search of Lord Richard's buried lady. From their meeting springs conflict, of which are borne Lara's preternatural action hero abilities and apparent lack of concern for the taking of life.
In hindsight, there wasn't really any reason to expect more of Tomb Raider. It is, after all, just what it would appear to be: the origin story/prequel to a brace of middling action movies from 20 years ago, based on a video game that, to be fair, is probably important to somebody. Sure, it's dressed up with an Oscar winner and some interesting character actors, but they're all phoning it in. And it certainly doesn't help that the majority of the island section has been lifted, shamelessly, from the Indiana Jones movies. While Lara was solving one of the tomb puzzles, I waited, cringing, for her to whisper "Only the penitent man shall pass." PG13. 118m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
LOVE, SIMON. One might not expect me, bitching old curmudgeon that I can sometimes be, to be taken in by an earnest, thoroughly modern coming-of-age story; I certainly wouldn't. And my skepticism in this case was especially prickly, given the presence of director Greg Berlanti, who mostly works in television, but who also directed Life As We Know It (2010), which I found wholly disingenuous and disposable. No fair, judging, I guess: I found myself charmed and disarmed by Love, Simon and I'm not ashamed to admit it (well, no more than usual).
Simon (Nick Robinson) lives a mostly easy life as a privileged suburban high school senior. His parents are attractive, understanding professionals and strong earners. His younger sister really gets him and is a would-be chef. He's got ride-or-die friends he's known forever. He also doesn't know how to tell anyone he's gay. His inner conflict compounds when he falls desperately in love with a commenter who came out on the high school's student message board. A relationship develops between the two of them, albeit online and completely anonymously, but is threatened by the intrusion of a socially inept drama weasel who sets out to blackmail Simon into hooking him up with Simon's best friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
As an inciting incident, the blackmail device feels a little ham fisted here, stuck in among what is otherwise pretty authentic look at the excruciating mundanity of growing up. Robinson gives an honest, often raw, always balanced performance, imbuing Simon with enough of the stuff of real life to make him relatable and supportable, even as he's making bad decisions and jeopardizing relationships. There are moments of preciousness, one-dimensional villains and too-cute resolutions, of course. But overall, Love, Simon speaks surprisingly honestly and directly to a certain type of teenage experience, while maintaining an affable approachability. PG13. 109m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
—John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards› Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982). Jim Henson's epic puppet adventure either charms or totally creeps you out. There is no in between for the elfin heroes and the villains who look sewn from Aerosmith's old mic stand scarves. PG. 93m. BROADWAY.
I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. This is based on the true backstory of a song about a young musician's (J. Michael Finley) troubled relationship with his father (Dennis Quaid) and now I don't know how people make movies anymore. Call your dad. PG. 110m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
MIDNIGHT SUN. Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger star in a romantic drama about a teenage girl with a medical condition that keeps her completely out of the sun. Spoiler: It's not vampirism, so settle down Twilight fans. PG. 91m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING. Young recruits battle a new wave of massive monsters in this sequel starring John Boyega, Cailee Spaeney and Scott Eastwood. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST. Bible biopic starring Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner as the rehabbed persecutor known as "the cute one." PG13. 108m.
PONYO. Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Tina Fey voice Hayao Miyazaki's animated take on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. It dunks on Disney. I will fight you. G. 141m. MINOR.
SHERLOCK GNOMES. Three guesses what this animated follow-up to Gnomeo and Juliet is about. With Emily Blunt, James McEvoy and best unseen Johnny Depp. PG. 86m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
UNSANE. Claire Foy stars as a woman who's committed to a mental hospital where her stalker (Joshua Leonard) works, unless everyone's right and it's all in her head. In case you don't get enough gaslighting in your daily life. R. 97m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE. Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl star as hijackers in director José Padilha's drama based on the true story of Air France passengers taken hostage in Uganda in 1976. PG13. 106m. BROADWAY.
THE ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS. More than a dozen animated shorts from around the world. 92m. MINIPLEX.
ANNIHILATION. Natalie Portman plays a biologist/veteran leading a team (Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh) into an environmental hazard zone that turns out more mind-bending and terrifying than anticipated. It's violent, intense and a marvel of set decoration, production design and imagination. R. BROADWAY.
BLACK PANTHER. One of the more interesting characters in the Marvel movie-verse in a big, exhilarating movie from director Ryan Coogler with a fine villainous turn by Michael B. Jordan, though some of its fascinating, nuanced story is lost in requisite superhero noise. PG13. 134m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
FACES PLACES. A road documentary in which director Agnes Varda and photographer and muralist JR bond as they schlepp a photo booth in a truck around France. PG. 89m. MINIPLEX.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN. A transgender woman (Daniela Vega) mourns the death of her lover (Francisco Reyes) and deals with his family, who'd prefer she go away. R. 104m. MINOR.
A WRINKLE IN TIME. Ava DuVernay's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy novel about a girl's (Storm Reid) search for her father (Chris Pine) with the help of a mystical trio (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling) lacks the narrative coherency and consistency of character needed to appeal to those who aren't already devoted fans. PG. 92m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THE YOUNG KARL MARX. Biopic focusing on the ideological bromance between the manifesto writer and Friedrich Engels. With Vicky Krieps. R. 85m. MINIPLEX.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill